I’m going to try to do more character interviews. In the past, I was averse to them because I write in a very visceral manner. My stories are quick, painful, bloody, and over. I don’t really have a strong sense of my main characters until the third or fourth rewrite. I’m a pantser and one of the failings of writing without an outline is that you don’t get a real sense of the world or characters until after the book is finished. Then you polish polish polish and attempt to herd cats into a basic plot. Plus, as you will see, some of my characters don’t interview very well.
Abby Jones’ Interview with Christopher
Christopher leaned back in his chair, arms crossed across his chest, a lazy glare on his face. I have to admit, I was a little nervous talking alone with Christopher. While I’m years older than him, his reputation as an unfeeling bully who lorded his power over his fellow bruisers put me slightly on edge. Everything about this boy oozed danger. His scars, his posture, his mixed-match clothing stolen from others, even the fact that he was not as gaunt as the rest of the kids from the Streets communicated his first priority: himself.
I sat opposite Christopher and held out my hand. He glanced at it, smirked slightly, and refused to take it. Any pleasantries we might have exchanged remained unspoke. His scars were the first thing I noticed after he pulled off a filthy knit cap revealing a shaved head. They tracked here and there across his face and into the shadow of his hair. Across his nose and just below his right eye blossomed a spider web of lines.
On his left cheek, as if to balance out the scars carved by fights, rested Fear’s mark delineating him a bruiser. My eyes flinched away from the mark: a boy trapped in the horror of a fire. There for all the world to see was, possibly, the only thing Christopher feared: burning to death.
He grinned at me and tapped his cheek. “Pretty, in’it?”
My heart raced. Awkwardness gave way to true uncomfortableness. Wait. Stop. I took a deep breath. I knew this boy’s fate. Why was I afraid? I matched Christopher grin for grin. All the anxiety he induced melted away.
Let’s start with the basic’s okay, just to warm up. What’s your name?
Listen lady, I ain’t some fancy rotten boy born to fancy rotten parents. (Excuse his language, dear reader, he has, as stated, no mother.) I was pulled from the ground like everyone else around here. And it’ ain’t rotten likely that some dirty hero from Greenhome’s gonna come sweep me up. It’s just rotten Christopher.
So, you’re an unborn?
You’re as bright as the shining sun.
What’s it like to be an unborn?
What do you think it’s rotten like? No one wants a maggot like you. No one cares about a maggot like you. (He leaned forward.) It means, iffen I want it, I take it. You got a pretty I like, it’s mine. Got it?
Uh…yes. I believe I’ve got it. So, what’s your unborn skill?
(He harrumphed and leaned back.) Rotten skills.
Closest thing I got to any skill is being a rotten scrapper.
Scrapper? What’s that?
A fighter. (He wiped his mouth with his hand.) I ain’t scared of getting hurt, or dirtying my hands, or pushing the little ones around. Flo said I came up fighting and she got me out of the scroungers real rotten fast. Said I was harvested to be a dirty, maggoty bruiser.
Do you like being a bruiser, and doing what Fear says?
So bruisers eat better than the mechanics and workers?
(Christopher laughed, moving in again.) What’s it look like to you?
How about Axe? Is he a good leader?
Rotten Axe. (Christopher glanced around real quick, checking to make sure we were alone.) He ain’t much older than me, and he ain’t rotting better than me. His skill is filthy dumb, reciting all them words. Give me time. I’m gonna make my pretty play and then Axe’ll be the one at the bottom of the dirty heap instead of the pretty top. Then all the bruisers will listen to me.
Sounds like you’re pretty ambitious.
I’m cold and hungry.
And Axe isn’t?
He’s got filthy food, ain’t he? He got so many pretty coats, he just rotting gives them away. The bruisers follow him around like he’s something special, and filthy Cagen lets him do whatever he rotting wants. Iffen Axe is, he isn’t as much as me.
Do you like living on the Streets?
Like? (He pushed back and put his boots up on the table. They both had holes in the soles and toes. Scraps of paper and dirty rags stuck out here and there.) What’s to rotting like? Marks, Axe, cold, hunger. Sure. It’s rotting dandy.
If you could leave, if someone offered to salvage you, would you go?
(Christopher’s face twisted this way and that.) No one would rotten do that for me.
How old are you, Christopher?
Who knows? Maybe somewheres around sixteen. Seems a pretty answer.
What is your job in Gang Gray, as a bruiser?
To bruise. (He smiled, showing all his dirty teeth.) I watch the wall with my boys and pound any of the dirty gangs that try and attack us. And I pound any other rotting bruisers who try to sleep in our spot. (Christopher paused.) And I pound any maggot who has what I want.
Sounds like you were born to be a bruiser. Any last thoughts or something you’d like to say?
(Christopher stands up.) Last thoughts? Yeah. I’m the one to watch. I’m going pretty places. Axe thinks he gives the orders now, but Pain’s asking me to do special things. Me. Rotting Christopher. And I’m gonna do ‘em. So you just keep your dirty eyes on me.
Oh believe me, I will. One last thing, did you know Jonah before he was salvaged?
(That question got a frown from Christopher.) Sure I rotten did. He and Deke were two of my best dirty little ones. I was going to make something of that boy. Talk about a rotten skill to fight, though they said he wasn’t no filthy unborn. I never in my life seen a boy so bent on hurting everything. I would’ve smashed Deke’s dirty hands myself for getting Jonah salvaged.
How do you think he’s doing in Greenhome?
Jonah? He better be making that rotting Soul regret ever salvaging him. I put a lot of work into training Jonah. Hate to rotting see it go to waste.
Do you miss him?
Miss him? He wasn’t no dirty brother of mine. But, boy, could he fight. (Christopher smiled to himself.) One time he took on three kids big as me in a fight, and whipped ‘em good. They was howling maggots by the end of it. Sure could use Jonah now, with what Pain’s got planned.
I ain’t no rotting snitch!
He stared at me for a few minutes.
Thank you for coming by and talking with me.
Without a word, Christopher pulled his hat back on and stalked out of the room. I sighed. All the ambition in the worlds, good or bad, wasn’t going to get Christopher what he wanted, thank the King. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the fact that Christopher thought he had it all figured out. I folded up my paper and put away my pen. I was glad to interview the sixteen-year-old bruiser. I love him after all. But, I was gladder to never again have to deal with him like he was then. Change was coming for Christopher, change named Jonah.
Christopher is a character in my Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door, The Cost of Two Hands. Read the first chapter here.